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Splish splash

Watch Rory McIlroy suffer a triple-bogey water disaster at 'The Bear Trap'

March 02, 2024
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Rory McIlroy attempts a shot from the water during Saturday's third round of the Cognizant Classic.

Brennan Asplen

The three-hole stretch of PGA National is called “The Bear Trap” for good reason. With water, water everywhere, the 15th, 16th and 17th holes are among the toughest gauntlets anywhere on the PGA Tour.

The 434-yard, par-4 16th, with wet stuff entirely down the right side, generally plays the easiest of the three, and this week it’s been only the seventh-hardest hole in the Cognizant Classic. Yet if Rory McIlroy doesn’t lift the trophy on Sunday—and that’s a long shot now—he’s going to rue his third-round splashing around for a triple bogey at the 16th.

Standing in the fairway only four shots off the lead and looking to further rally, McIlroy pushed his second shot from the fairway and watched as his ball hit the bank right of the green and bound into the edge of the water.

He had a tough lie. The ball was submerged a few inches under the water and McIlroy thought he could manage a shot, so he removed his right shoe and sock, and rolled up his cream-colored pants. NBC commentator Luke Donald—McIlroy’s most recent Ryder Cup captain­—pointed out that the Ulsterman could take a drop on the bank and try to salvage an up-and-down for bogey. McIlroy decided to go for it. But he swung too far behind the ball, and the splash barely popped it up, only for the ball to roll back into the water.

Now, McIlroy chose to drop the ball on the bank where it originally hit on his approach, and when he pitched to six feet, he had a chance to save a double. But the putt scooted by the cup, and McIlroy suffered a triple-bogey 7—a disastrous result for the World No. 2 who's seeking his first PGA Tour win since last July's Genesis Scottish Open. He captured the DP World Tour's Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy bounced back a bit with a birdie at the 18th, but he finished with a one-over-par 72, and at seven under, he’s six shots back of a trio of leaders.

McIlroy's game has been a picture of wild contrasts this week. He's been a beast off the tee, ranking first in strokes gained in the category, as well as in driving distance (322.10 yards). But beyond some wayward approaches, McIlroy has really struggled on the greens, losing 1.59 strokes to the field in putting, ranking hin 62nd.